Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Light Lunch

With the Holiday gift-making rush over for another year, I decided to use the next few, precious weeks of "down time" and make something for myself.

I started this a few months ago in another (increasingly rare) lull between self-imposed deadlines. It's about 40% completed and I love the colors I chose. Although I still remember the concept of the piece really well and know what I wanted the end result to be, it did take me a little time closely examining my previous progress on the piece to remember just exactly how I was plotting it all out.

Of course, I couldn't be satisfied with only one major project at a time, so along with the above piece I am doing from my own pattern, I am also making a sweater for myself, this time using a published pattern from another designer. The pattern is from "Crocheted Aran Sweaters" by Jane Snedden Peever. You may remember that the purple sweater I made for my Aunt Barbara from this book won a blue ribbon at the State Fair of Texas last year. Of course, that sweater was substantially altered from the pattern, but I am doing my very best to follow the pattern for this one, including even -(get ready for it) - using the recommended yarn! ::gasp:: I know. It's shocking.

Here's a peek at the wip using Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn, color: Wheat:

With this worsted weight yarn, the sweater is moving alot quicker than I am used to one growing. Still, I want a nice thick cardigan that can double as a jacket in the Texas seasons, so I figured the yarn would be appropriate. I'll let you know what I think when I've worn it...

All is not just cables and posts, though! Afterall, what is Jer without a little whimsy?!?

Several months ago I made the "killer tomato" that I found on this web site. A co-worker so enjoyed it, I made a mental note to myself at the time to also make him one. Taking advantage of the "down time," I whipped out a (smaller) companion to my original so he could enjoy the strange in his office. Here's a pic of "Quincy" next to his original brother, "Sammy." Each one only took an evening to make and what fun!!

Who knows? Maybe there's a whole psychotic salad in my future!



Monday, December 24, 2007

Fa La La La La

"Tis the season..."

I don't know about you, but for me, that means "Tis the season to run around like crazy with too many things on your agenda to possibly get them all done and keep a smile on your face while doing it..."

To catch you up, my friends, on the last three weeks of my life, I offer the following as an explanation of my absence:

3 full sized throws, 6 pair of earrings, one necklace, 1 pair of socks, several lots of sock yarn dyed, one sock pattern written and printed, gifts purchased and gifts shipped, a holiday fund raiser, a couple of Holiday concerts, several holiday parties and countless Christmas cards sent. This is all in addition to the "usual" things in life that lay claim to my time (you know, like eating, sleeping and a full-time job.)

I know all that is not a good excuse for not posting during the process, but I'm sure most of you reading this have encountered similar experiences in the last few weeks and can relate...

"Hello. My name is Jer and I'm a fiber-holic."

Actually, most of the crochet time in the last three weeks was spent making the throws for three special friends. Those three guys have helped me alot over the past year, in ways too complicated to go into here. Let me just say it in terms to which you can relate... each throw was more than 18,000 stitches... that's alot of love right there. Sorry, no pictures yet; I can only show you pictures of the gifts that have already been given to the recipients.

This is "Mayan Jungle," a crochet wire and bead neclace with matching earrings.

Here are a couple of the latest sock yarns:

I call the second one with coordinating toe/heel yarn "Pep-TOE Berry." The variegate was specifically set in lengths to work with my pattern, "SDOSAS Sox" which is being tested by another crocheter as we speak. (I could also use a couple other volunteers to work the pattern to help me check for errors. Any takers?)

For the gift exchange at the holiday party for my local crochet group, I included a copy of my sock pattern, along with some yarn to make a couple pairs of socks. Here's my first pathetic attempt at creating a label of sorts for the yarns.

I like the fonts and the color choices for the label, but clearly the light-weight paper and the scotch tape have to go! (Be kind, this one is still a WIP.)

With all the activity and seemingly endless barrage of deadlines, it would be easy for me to forget what all this is really about. Luckily, though, I've had little reminders along the way. Whether making Rachel Ray's five-minute fudge for our dinner party at home with friends or seeing the thrilled look of surprise on loved ones' faces when receiving gifts, the simple joys remind me to cherish each moment in life and enjoy the special times with loved ones.

This holiday season, when things can often be hectic and complicated, I wish you something more. I wish each of you the comforts and joys found in the simple things.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

If I Only Had a Brain

These last few days since my last post have just flown by in a blur. Luckily for me, the blur included lots of woolen colors!

I dyed up some more sock yarn. This time, I stuck to (mainly) 2 colors so I could experiment with pattern. One lot was designed to "self-stripe" in contrasting colors and the second was an experiment on "heathering" the usually bright colors that result from KA. Here's a pic of the yarns all dried and hanked up...

...and all balled up, ready to play...

...and here's a couple pics of the patterns that revealed themselves.

Some of the other items that have kept mind and hands busy must remain a mystery since they are gifts destined for family and friends. With the gifts due in a little over three weeks... (is that possible? Only three weeks left?!?!) I have WAY more on the to-do list than I could complete if I were to forego sleeping, eating, and showering - not to mention working at that other job, the one that insists I show up regularly.

So why am I not focussing all my available energies on the gifts? Why have I picked up an earlier project that was not completed - an experimental project - a project with no real deadline? Afterall, I put the project down because is was tediously slow in its progress and now is not the time to be working on items that don't do their part by growing quickly! I need items with maximum result for each stitch!

You'll recognize this as the item that inspired "Crimson Breeze." After all the self-imposed pressure and lace-weight nightmares I experienced on that one, you would think I would run screaming from its earlier version. But not me. No siree! I have faith that the fiber gods and goddesses will somehow smile down on my perserverance and reward me by stopping the forward progress of time. Or maybe I'm just a littled touched, you know... "up there."



Sunday, November 25, 2007

Crimson Breeze

As you may recall, yesterday was the day that the seemingly endless project was to have been completed and given to the recipient.
I'm happy to say that both deadlines were met!

I named the project "Crimson Breeze" and here's a couple of pictures of the lace weight shawl pinned out for blocking:
...and after blocking, it held its shape beautifully! As the name suggests, it is as light as air!

All in all, I couldn't have been happier with the final product. So, gift in hand, I proceeded to the event where it would be given over to the hands of the one for whom it was made. The recipient was no other than Tori Amos!! (Insert fawning and gushing here.) Tori's auditory images have always washed over me like the wind -sometimes lilting and soft, sometimes with all the force in mother nature.

In my journey to express my evolving spiritual truths through artistic expression, I am drawn to others who are also on similar journeys. I truly admire Tori not only for her continuing journey, but also for her fearless honesty and her unapologetic claiming of the truth.

To have spent an evening in the midst of one so inspirational was great, but to also have been able to share this interpretaion with her was pure bliss...



PS - Tomorrow, a new sock!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sock Siren's Song

Ok. Here's the problem.

I have all of this sock yarn in great colors (most of it self-dyed) that should work up into some striking and unusual socks. I finally have a 'stand-by' pattern to crochet a sock that is functional. "So what's the problem, Jer?" you ask. What's the problem?

The problem is that I don't seem to have the time! Lately there has just not been enough minutes in the day. Curse the clock!

I mean, I guess I would have alot more time if I didn't need at least a little sleep, but unfortunately, I have not yet discovered how to skip the sleeping part and still be somewhat coherent and reasonably pleasant the next day. Stupid sleep!

But the worst part, worse than knowing the sock yarn is there waiting, is when I accidently see it. And it's always when I least expect it... There it is, peeking out of the bag, catching the light just so! Dang! Stupid light! You ruin everything!!

I always avert my eyes, lest the temptation grow, but it is usually too late. The seed is planted. "I want to be a sock." it sings to me. "Why are you avoiding me?"

Why, indeed. Why am I?

Simple. I have a conflicting deadline.

I am making a gift for a someone that absolutely must be completed and ready to give on November 24th. No exceptions. No extensions. There will only be one moment in time and I must be ready! The thing is, though, I'm still crocheting it. I am devoting all of my crafting time to this one project. (That alone is enough to strain my grip on sanity.) Sometimes I fear I will inadvertently blurt out the name of the project in some sock-withdrawal-induced, tourette-syndrome-like fit, caving in to the stress at the most inopportune time. Perhaps standing in line at the DMV or sitting in a meeting at work I'll catch the phrase in my head and shout it out - "Sock! I want to be a sock!"

My only hope is to finish this thing. I know the stitches are small. I know each row seems endless and only adds a fraction of an inch to the overall length. I know!

So you can also have an idea of the project receiving center-stage attention, here's a peek:::sigh::



Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The TOES have it

"When last we left our fiber hero, he was obsessed with creating new and exciting color combinations by dying wool sock yarn using flavored drink mix powders. It appears not much has changed in the obsession department. Let's peek in on him and see what new treats he has in store..."

True. I have not accomplished anything particularly blog-worthy in the past few days. I'm still, repeat - still - crocheting the shawl that will (hopefully) be completed in time to give as a gift at a special occasion. AND I've been continuing my experiments with sock yarn.

The yarn identified in a previous post simply as "Meg" has been renamed after initial shaping into sock form. Now, all would do well to remember the full name of the colorway, "Meg's Fan-Toe-Sy."
Last night, I dyed up a couple of new colorways that are nearly dry as I type. They should be dry enough by tomorrow for me to ball up the yarn and hopefully I will get the chance to see how they look as socks. This first one should stripe out in two complimenting pink tones with a green accent ripple. The name for this one jumped out at me. This is "Wa-Toe-Melon."

This next one has not been as easy to name. It has pink and orange with blue as the "wave" color. Maybe a name will become apparent when I see it worked up... (Of course, suggestions are always welcome!)Before I close for the night, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to do something for their fellow mankind. Take organ donation, for instance. Several weeks ago, a coworker had her gall bladder removed. Since I only have the one and it didn't seem prudent to offer it up for her, I decided on the next best thing. I made her one that she could use. That's right - a felted gall bladder handbag.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Atomic Surf

I attacked the latest Kool-Aid dyed yarn last night with all of my usual, energy. After a few practice rows, (and several frogged rows) the pattern of the yarn finally let itself be known to me. I won't bore you with the math - almost all of my own patterns involve math and the relationship/play of numbers - but the result was this:

I love the rippling shock waves created by the green against the tiny alternating blue and purple stripes! A lady at my crochet group meeting (Hi Christine!) commented that the ripples reminded her of water and within a few minutes, a name for the yarn style was born.

World, meet the first in the "Atomic Surf" line of yarns. (I'm still playing around with names for this particular color combination and all suggestions are welcome!)

I was so excited that I dyed up a new color combination. This time, I chose green and purple for the alternating stripes and a bright orange for the contrasting waves. In honor of my favorite freeform doll, Megretange, I am calling this next incarnation "Meg."

Here's "Meg" of the Atomic Surf line after the dye baths:

And since I am so impatient, er... I mean... so energetic!, here's it is balled up:

On another note, one that has absolutely nothing to do with socks or sock yarn, ::gasp:: I reclaimed my pieces from the Creative Arts showing at the State Fair of Texas last weekend. After sewing my tag into the back of it, I took the pink and black jacket to Vicki this past week. Although we gave her and her new husband Tim a wedding present, this was my personal gift of congratulations to her. (I am still quietly relieved that it actually fits her correctly!) See for yourself:

What better way to end this post (and give me an excuse to start working the "Meg" yarn) than with a smiling face?



Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dye Another Day

My latest shipment of white wool yarn arrived yesterday. In keeping with my current addiction, err... I mean, passion for making socks, this time, it was white fingering/sock weight wool from JoJoLand. (Nice folks over there and they are a repeat vendor at the DFW FiberFest. We love them!) I had the colors all picked out for my next venture into dying wool. This time I was going to try a variegated yarn using three different colors, but first, the yarn had to be loosened to better take the dye evenly. In between answering the door for the "trick-or-treaters" and dinner, I somehow managed to get the wool wound onto my swift early enough to still leave time in the evening for the fun part. Over the next two hours, I brewed, submerged, rinsed, brewed, submerged... well, you get the idea.

Then came the hardest part. I had hang the hanks and let them dry - overnight! Ahh! The anguish! I wanted to ball it up and use it right away!

When the time finally arrived tonight, I had this:

That, my friends, is what happens when wool meets "Lemon Lime" "Berry Blue" and "Grape" flavored Kool-Aid and a little heat.

I like all the resulting colors, but the blue is amazing! So vibrant, almost electric!

Below is a picture of what the hanks look like balled up. But, look quickly - I'm ending this post early so I can start a sock and discover the play of the colors in a pattern.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sock, Deconstructed

I have been accused (and not entirely wrongly) of being stubborn from time to time. And when it comes to my fiber creations, I am especially reluctant to admit defeat.

This is especially apparent when, contrary to my own eyes and my sense of space and time, I will continue stitching a sleeve for a sweater I am making for my sister even though the sleeve has grown long enough to fit an adult giraffe's leg! Eventually, I will admit to myself that something might be wrong and re-think the sleeve.

But once I have actually finished a project, the piece always seem to take on an existence, comes into its own, if you will and admitting it is "wrong" in some way seems like passing judgement on it. I mean, doesn't a jacket that could not possibly fit anyone in real life have the same right to exist as one worn proudly every day? Afterall, it's not the jacket's fault.

That said, you can imagine the emotional turmoil I experienced when it came to the Shi Bui socks I made early in my attempts to discover the seemingly elusive well-fitted crocheted sock. Although they looked like socks, they would not fit comfortably into a shoe like a sock should. And afterall, shouldn't that be the sole function of a sock? (Pardon the pun.) Maybe I could have kept them in a box somewhere, only to pull them out every now and then like an old photograph and "remember when..."

I was startled - shaken, really - when I realized for the first time that I was actually considering unravelling the socks to re-work the yarn into a sock I could use as a sock. What was I thinking?? Eliminate a creation? It's not like I need the yarn, given my stash.

But then a sense of peace came over me when I realized that the maybe the sock wanted to be re-worked - kinda like plastic surgery for wool, or something. Yeah, that's it! The wool had been denied becoming the useful sock it was meant to be. Just because it had the unfortunate luck of landing into my fumbling and unlearned hands, should I force it to remain in a form less than it aspires to be? How could I be so cruel?

In a rare act of submission, I quickly reclaimed the wool to its balled form in attempt to set things right with the universe and cleanse my karma.

Now, about that jacket...



Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

This is my favorite time of year. No, I do not mean fall or autumn. I mean Halloween! Of course, the best Halloween is one that falls on a Friday or a Saturday, but even when it does not (like this year) it is still great!

I love to disguise myself in an intricate costume (details, details!) and go out in public or to parties crowded with friends who spend most of the night asking each other "Who IS that? Do we know that person??" The greatest compliment I could receive to my disguise-making attempts is when someone who sees me daily - or even weekly - states with sincere amazement that they had know idea it was me.

Keeping in sync with my color infatuation du jour, I went as my favorite fictional character. That's right, The Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. Something about her unabashed green-ness and her unapologetic over-use of black in her wardrobe has always appealed to me, even as a youngster. And don't get me started on that fabulous, full length cape!!

The party I went to (with my best bud, Margaret) was a fundraiser for a local event attending by at least 150 or so others. Although alot of people were not in costume and were only there to support the cause or see the show, there was a great cohesiveness among the painted and the unadorned. All said, I took home a prize to enjoy later, but it is the memories of the look of shock and discovery on my friends' faces that I will long carry with me.

On the fiber front, I finished the Maggi-O socks. They turned out pretty well. The best thing is that they actually fit her. I tried something different with the toe and heel sections of the "pattern" this time. I love the tweaking process when I am creating a new base-pattern for something I will make several times in the future, but I think I finally have a process and stitch pattern I can be comfortable with for a long time to come.

After my shower last night to de-green myself, I sat listening to a cd and worked on the crocheted lace project some more. Now that the sock thing is down and the happiest day of the year is behind me, I can truly give this project the focus it deserves. (Plus, time is running short and I need to have it completed soon!) Here's a little teaser photo for those of you that like that sort of thing.
Now, if I can just stay focussed and not allow another fiber-related distraction...

Yeah, yeah, I know. Slim chance of that...



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A New Fix

During a quick (and unplanned) trip for my day job, I was able to complete another pair of crocheted socks. (Waiting in airports and seemingly endless flights have become welcome opportunities for encounters with sticks and strings!) You may remember the first pair I made... an altered pattern (yeah, yeah. I know. What pattern have I NOT altered?) that I found via the Ravelry "Recipe for SOCK-cess" group. (here's the pattern I started with: )

For the first attempt, I used Shi Bui sock yarn. I changed the toe slightly, but keeping the cables on the top of the sock and along the upper portion of the foot, I put only ribbing along the sole, eliminating the cables there.

The socks feel great on - as long as I'm sitting - but I'm not crazy about the the way it feels when I stand on them... Not to mention that the result was a sock that wouldn't fit comfortably into a shoe!

Enter the pattern - altered even more. Altered so much in fact, that it hardly resembles the original pattern except that it results in a sock, and has double crochet ribbing. I kept the foot portion tightly stitched and thin. I also reduced the cables to only one set on the leg-portion.

I love these socks! And they feel so great on, that I wore them to work today! I even kept them on all day, neverminding that I had a "back-up" pair of plain, blue dress socks - just in case.

But now I have a problem... I can't stop making socks! There is something so enjoyable about it. Maybe it's because they are so portable. Maybe it's watching the sock grow 1/16th of an inch at a time is such detailed work. All I know is that, it's.. well, it's addictive!

I started another pair for my best friend Margaret almost as soon as I had this pair done. But even though I am only about half-way through her first sock, I have been surfing the net, scouring really, in search of more sock yarn!

Speaking of which, I need to cut this post short. I have a new addiction to feed!



The Crimson Shawl is progressing nicely - albeit between ribbing stitches!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hey, Kool-Aid!

Sorry to disappoint, but you should not expect pictures of me breaking through walls dressed as a favorite drink/character from childhood. Instead, expect tales of my journeys through a fiber-filled world.

I'm always experimenting and trying something new with fiber. My latest journey has involved lace-weight merino wool. I read about this yarn on the Yarn Harlot's blog when she was using it to make a mystery stole. (At $14 US for over 1400 yards, I figured it was cheap enough to play around with and if the experiments went poorly, I wouldn't be feeling the pain in my wallet.) So I ordered a couple of skeins online from the Loopy Ewe - nice folks, give them a shout -and off I went!

After trying my hand crocheting with a lace-weight yarn for the first time, it wasn't long before I became "bored" with the seemingly endless repetition of tiny white stitches.

Enter our hero.

All together now...

"Hey. Kool-Aid!"

I mixed up a yarn bath of powdered drink mix (and a little vinegar for acidity) being careful not to agitate the wool in the hot water. Afterall, felting is fun too, but that was not the goal this time. Like magic, I could almost immediately see the color moving into the fiber.

After about 30 minutes (more time than needed, I know, but I wanted to be sure) I drained the now-clear water, gently blotted the excess water and hung the hank to dry overnight.

The next day, I could hardly wait to stretch the hank onto the swift and ball up the luscious fiber!

The colors were amazing! The vareigated effect, no doubt from not stirring the fiber in the pot of hot water, was nearly hypnotizing. My mouth was nearly watering as I gazed on the deep burgundies, the rich rubies and the lighter crimson highlights. I was torn between just standing there staring at the yarn and a desire to have it balled up so I could start (yet another) project.

In the end, I couldn't have been more pleased with the resulting ball of endless possibilities.

I immediately started a lacy shawl to give as a gift next month, but you'll have to wait for pictures of that until it's finished!

Until then,